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Neil Wallis, a former News of the World executive editor, said fallout from the hacking scandal had left newspapers “terrified of their own shadow.”

“In this post-Leveson era … they daren’t do things that most of the country, if they saw it in the newspaper, would think `that’s a bit of a laugh,’” Wallis told the BBC.

While newspapers including The Sun and the Daily Mirror proclaimed that the naked photos had been “banned,” that is not strictly true.

Several media organizations around the world ran the two naked photos of the prince, which are being sold, according to British media reports, for about 10,000 pounds ($16,000).

British outlets refrained, after receiving a warning Wednesday from palace officials.

Prince Harry’s office confirmed it had contacted the Press Complaints Commission, an industry watchdog, which in turn advised newspapers not to publish the pictures.

Any paper that ran them risks being chastised by the commission, which can demand a newspaper publish an apology, but has no power to issue fines.

They could also potentially be open to an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit from the prince.

A letter to the watchdog from royal law firm Harbottle and Lewis warned that royal officials “entirely reserve their rights as to any future steps that they may take should publication take place.”

Once, editors might have risked it, arguing that publishing the images was in the public interest because Harry is a public _ and publicly funded _ figure.

Satchwell acknowledged there was a risk Leveson’s inquiry could chill press freedom. But he said newspapers were simply behaving responsibly over Harry.

“Of course freedom of the press is vitally, vitally important,” he said. “But just because you can publish something doesn’t mean that you should.”


Jill Lawless can be reached at